What is behind US clashes with ‘Iran-backed’ fighters in Syria?

The escalation comes after months of calm and productive ongoing talks to restore the Iran nuclear deal.

Three separate days of clashes this week between United States military forces and Iran-backed militias in Syria have highlighted the US presence in the country, just as indirect negotiations to save the Iran nuclear deal appear to be final. stage

US President Joe Biden said on Thursday that four fighters were killed in a US strike in eastern Syria and that Washington’s operation was aimed at protecting its forces from attacks by Iran-backed armed groups.

“I directed the August 23 strikes to protect and defend the safety of our personnel … and to deter the Islamic Republic of Iran and Iran-backed militia groups from carrying out or supporting further attacks on United States personnel and facilities,” Biden said in a statement. . to the US Congress regarding the decision of military action.

Iran has denied that groups it supports or are linked to target Tehran, and has called for the withdrawal of US forces from Syria.

Biden said the strikes targeted a facility used by the group for logistics and ammunition storage and were in response to raids by the US and its allies in the region.

Three U.S. service members suffered minor injuries Wednesday when armed groups launched rocket attacks on two military bases in northeastern Syria, according to U.S. Central Command.

Jean-Loup Saman, a senior research fellow at the Middle East Institute in Singapore, said recent US raids look more like a tit-for-tat exchange than a military escalation.

“If we follow the statements of the US government, the rationale so far does not seem to be escalating but to restore some kind of status quo between the two sides,” Saman told Al Jazeera.

“I don’t think the idea was to link the developments in Syria to the ongoing nuclear talks, in fact, it’s probably the other way around,” the analyst said.

“This reminds us that the threatened agreement will not solve all the issues on the table, as we saw in 2015 when the agreement had no impact on other regional issues,” he added.

Escalating talks between the two sides could threaten to save the nuclear deal between key world powers led by the US and Iran.

More than four years after former US President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled out of the accord, negotiations to restore the deal have gained momentum, aimed at preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons in exchange for lifting sanctions on the country.

The sides are exchanging what they call a “final text” for the agreement within the scope of the talks.

US internal politics

Seyed Mohammad Marandi, a professor at the University of Tehran, believes that the recent surge in Iran is due to US domestic politics ahead of the country’s upcoming mid-term elections.

“Biden wants to be seen as a strong leader by the American political class and public ahead of time [mid-term] Elections, and now we are close to a nuclear deal,” Marandi said from Tehran, adding that Syrian government-sanctioned forces are in the country to fight the ISIL (ISIS) group (ISIS).

In addition to fighting ISIL, militias fighting in support of the Syrian government played an active role in defeating the Syrian opposition in large parts of the country.

Marandi added that the “illegal attacks by the US” were being counted because the damage they caused was limited and did not affect the ongoing nuclear talks with Iran.

“The US military has been careful not to escalate the situation without incurring huge losses or costs, which also shows that this move is more about internal politics than regional issues,” Marandi said.

The 2022 US midterm elections will be held on November 8. Candidates will compete for all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 seats in the Senate.

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